Ready For Takeoff (12/1/99)

You're aware of how many Apple-bashers in the press are adopting kindler, gentler attitudes these days? Well, we figured it couldn't last, but longtime Apple critic Hiawatha Bray continues his newly-Mac-tolerant ways in his latest Boston Globe column, as reported by faithful viewer Zach Leber. Sure, Bray gets his licks in as he describes his new iBook, but many of his points are completely valid. We haven't had the opportunity to try to use our iBook on a plane like Bray did, but given how cramped we were even when using our much smaller Duo 280c, we can imagine it's no picnic. Yes, it's big and relatively heavy-- heck, that's our main criticism, too. Yes, we wish Apple had made at least 64 MB of RAM standard in the iBook's shipping configuration. In fact, the only statement with which we flat-out disagree is, "why bother with a built-in handle?" (We love the handle. Nobody disses the handle.)

The part where we can get behind Mr. Bray 100%, though, is where he starts raving about AirPort. If you think AirPort's cool and you've never used it, you probably don't realize just how cool it is. We bought our iBook expressly with the intention of turning it into a wireless portable AtAT production terminal. (Meaning, we wanted to be able to surf the web while lying on the couch or sitting in the back yard. Is that so wrong?) After a few weeks of disappointment from the on-line and mail-order vendors ("PREORDER," "OUT OF STOCK," "CALL FOR AVAILABILITY," etc.), our local Micro Center reported that they had both cards and Base Stations in stock. We picked ours up last night, brought the gear home, and started to build our own wireless network.

Installation could only have been easier if Apple had packed a small gnome in the box to perform the physical labor. If you've read other AirPort reviews, you probably know the drill: for the iBook, we flipped two switches, flipped down the keyboard, attached the antenna to the card, and slipped the card into its slot. The Base Station was even easier: we plugged it into a power outlet and connected it to our LAN with a standard Ethernet cable. That was it, from a hardware perspective. As for software, after we ran the AirPort installer and restarted, the AirPort Setup Assistant kicked into gear and asked if we wanted to configure our Base Station. It then copied the network settings from the iBook to the Base Station, and before we knew it, we were surfing from the couch, unfettered by wires or cables. We've seen horror stories about AirPort configuration, but in our case, it was quick, simple, and flawless.

And get this: contrary to early rumors, AppleTalk support seems just dandy. Not only were we able to connect to any of our other Macs via the Chooser's AppleShare, but we were also even able to print wirelessly to our ancient HP DeskWriter 560c. Everything just worked, like a good Apple product should. So now Katie (AtAT's resident fact-checker and Goddess of Minutiae) can indulge her truly frightening eBay addiction without having to miss her favorite TV shows. Ain't technology grand? The Apple team has really pulled off a miracle here: they've made us agree with Hiawatha Bray.

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The above scene was taken from the 12/1/99 episode:

December 1, 1999: Clear the runways-- AirPort has landed at AtAT. Meanwhile, Steve Jobs' ban on named credits lists in Apple products becomes "official" by virtue of a "real news" article, and Apple Expo 2000 is finally laid to rest...

Other scenes from that episode:

  • 1946: Credit Where It's Due (12/1/99)   The Internet press is a funny thing: rumors seem to become official "news" once they get reported by news sites instead of rumor sites, even if the news site's primary source is the rumor site in the first place...

  • 1947: End Of An Error (12/1/99)   Stick a fork in it-- it's done. Apple Expo 2000, the UK Mac trade show to end all UK Mac trade shows, has just, well, ended. After Apple recently reneged on a promise to attend and bring along Steve Jobs to deliver one of his fabulous keynote addresses, the whole show began to crumble, until finally it vaporized completely...

Or view the entire episode as originally broadcast...

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